Hands pressed together like a praying mantis, Theresa May entered the cypher. “Either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant,” she said in Parliament on 31 January, in the manner of a disappointed primary school teacher. “Or they didn’t think the rules applied to No 10. Which was it?” And the crowd of MPs around her roared. Theresa May, it seems, is keen on giving Boris Johnson a kick up the backside.
As is always the case on the Internet, a clip of this moment has gone viral. TikToks soundtracked by punishing guitar chords were captioned: “Mrs May has found her voice”, followed by the flame emoji. Commenters wrote things like: “you start to realise how bad it’s got when you start to like TM [sic]” and “I didn’t have agreeing with Theresa May on my 2022 bingo card”.
Of course, she’s right. His constant lying, rule-breaking, and catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic has led to 150,000 deaths and a nation at breaking point. To many, these questions were evidence that Theresa May is showing Boris what’s what. Yas Queen. Stomp on him with your kitten heels and make it clear who wears the pantsuit around here. Because who run the world? Girls! Am I right? The following morning, a New Statesman piece declared: ‘Theresa May’s demolition of Boris Johnson almost made me miss her’. Amid all of this, we simply have to ask: is everyone OK?
“To many, these questions were evidence that Theresa May is showing Boris what’s what. Yas Queen. Stomp on him with your kitten heels and make it clear who wears the pantsuit around here”
The parties are just one callous example of the Tories’ lack of empathy for people in Britain. But May can’t absolve herself from the same accusation. What we are not going to do is forget her horrific legacy as a politician.
In a predictable liberal feminist fashion, some have decided to eschew acknowledging the decline of a nation, our steady slip into plausible fascism, and the weakening of democracy in favour of yassifying a former girl boss. May walked so that Priti Patel could run. In 2012, she introduced the Hostile Environment, a set of anti-immigration policies still haunting people to this day. “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants,” she said, infamously. Under her rule, “go home” vans drove around London boroughs to scare undocumented people, gay asylum seekers felt forced to prove their sexuality and the Windrush scandal exploded.
And that’s not even covering her time as Prime Minister, during which; child poverty saw its biggest jump in three decades, 160,000 disabled people lost their benefits, Grenfell Tower burned down and she didn’t immediately visit victims, and the UK government continued selling arms to Saudi Arabia despite May’s criticisms of their use in Yemen. She also sold arms to Turkey, which activists criticised as ‘turning a blind eye on rights abuses’. Her term was a car crash. And to top it all off? She gave Johnson a credible role as Foreign Secretary in 2016, paving his way to power. In what world should we be looking back at her leadership as the ‘good ol’ days’? How would she have led us down a drastically different path when she wrote the playbook?
“In what world should we be looking back at her leadership as the ‘good ol’ days’? How would she have led us down a drastically different path when she wrote the playbook?”
Nothing acts as a reminder of the lunacy of this country more than moments like these. We are doomed to repeat the same mistakes because we literally cannot remember how we made them in the first place. Britain is a little goldfish floating around in embittered waters. We are not in this situation because we didn’t appreciate Theresa May until it was too late. Her ‘strong and stable’ leadership is responsible for the shower of shit we’re getting from her successor.
By asserting that these Downing Street parties wouldn’t have happened under May, all that’s being acknowledged is that she isn’t a party girl (her wildest moments did, after all, happen in fields of wheat). Yet her remarks do not let her off the hook for all the damage she has done before and continues to do as a Tory MP, having voted for the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, despite cautioning Priti Patel that there is “a fine line between popular and being populist” in March 2021. Nor do a few stern words mean that the public should now start settling for the idea that ‘respectable’ Tory politicians are the highest bar of British politics.
We don’t want to swap Boris Johnson for Theresa May. Or for David Cameron. The Tories are fruit from the same decaying crop. Get them all out. The people deserve better.